I've always liked the Haughwout Building. I remember in the early '90s when it was ghostly and blackened and the clock face stood out sharply; I had sort of liked it that way. The original color of the building, as described in a contemporary account, was "Turkish drab" though now its a brilliant warm ecru. Today I went and took a few photos.
The store, numbers 488-492 Broadway, was built at the corner of Broome Street in 1856 for retailer Eder Vreeland Haughwout (evidently pronouned "HOW-out"). It was designed by John Plant Gaynor, who was inspired by the Sansovino Library in Venice, although if I'd read he'd been inspired by French pastry I would believe that, too. The facade, one of two of the earliest surviving examples of cast iron architecture, is constructed from components fabricated by Daniel Badger's Architectural Iron Works and it is completely self-supporting. With 5 floors above ground, and 2 below, the building featured the first safely viable passenger elevator, by Otis. The elevator has long since been removed.
Like many of the retail "palaces" lining Broadway in the 19th century the store not only displayed and sold luxury items, it manufactured them as well. Haughwout's offered silver, antiques, bronzes, Parian statuettes and other goods on the main floor, glass, mirrors and china on the second , chandeliers on the third. Upper floors housed part of the manufactory with scores of women gilding and painting china, and men working on metalware. According to this site, Mary Todd Lincoln shopped at Haughwout's in 1861 and bought a set of custom china for the White House– an American eagle surrounded by a wide mauve border.
Saved from the path of Robert Moses' Lower Manhattan Expressway nightmare, the building was landmarked (surprising early) in 1965.
Top two illustrations from Art and the Empire City, New York 1825-1861, Yale University Press and Metropolitan Museum; b/w images from Tom Fletcher's NYC architecture